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NASA’s InSight mission!

InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Seismic meaning it’ll be measuring mars quakes. InSight will have a 5 meter probe that will go into the surface of Mars to take multiple measurements of its interior. Now keep in mind InSight is a lander not a rover it won’t be traveling once it lands. Whereas a rover is normally exploring the surface going to multiple locations on Mars like the Curiosity rover that launched in 2011. InSight will be the first mission to peer deep into Mars interior.

It’ll be analyzing geophysical data and scientists hope that it will answer questions about the formation, the evolution and the composition of Mars and other rocky bodies and our solar system. It’ll be landing at Elysian Planitia which is a low-lying plain just north or be equator on Mars. This is the perfect area for InSight because it is solar powered!! And this area offers maximum sun exposure and has a smooth penetrable surface! Once it has landed scientists here on Earth will peer through InSight’s cameras to observe the surroundings of where the lander had landed. And once all is clear and ready to go InSight will begin to settle into its new home. It will deploy it’s hardware, extend out it’s twins solar arrays and prepare itself for a two-year job.

InSight has a robotic arm with a five finger grapple which will be controlled by engineers here on Earth, and will be used to deploy it’s equipment. Payload systems engineer Farrah Alibay said something that was pretty funny to me she says “have you ever played the claw game at arcades? That essentially is what we’re doing but million miles away.” There is actually a simulation lab for the engineers to practice controlling the robotic arms, it’s located at JPL’s In-Situ instrument lab in Pasadena, California. Once the InSight team will be successfully operate the arm to deploy InSight’s instruments, it will be known as the first time that a robotic arm has been used to set down hardware on another planet!!

Credit copyright: NASA JPL

There are two main instruments on insight the first one is called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure also known as SEIS, and it contains an array of seismometers which are used for measuring the size, speed and frequency of Seismic waves produced by the shifting and cracking of the Martian interior, also known as Mars quakes!! Similarly to the seismometers used to measure earthquakes. It can measure ground movement smaller than the width of a hydrogen atom!! That’s really really tiny!! Tom Hoffman says “ if there happened to be a butterfly on Mars and it landed very lightly on the Seismometer, we’d actually be able to detect that.” The difference between the seismometers on Earth versus the ones that will be on Mars is that the ones on Earth normally need to be delicately handled, place down gently and never touched again. Where the seismometers on Mars are a lot stronger. With the rumble from the rocket launch to the vibrations, the atmospheric entry, the descent and landing, these seismometers were built to survive.

They will also be facing the extreme temperature changes on Mars, it’ll be located nearby the equator on Mars, which in the Sun during the summer will be around 70°F but can reach as low as -100°F at night! Thankfully the InSight engineers were able to make it under many layers of protection.

This seismometer can also can detect liquid water, meteorite impacts and

NASA’s InSight Mars lander spacecraft in a Lockheed Martin clean room near Denver. As part of a series of deployment tests, the spacecraft was commanded to deploy its solar arrays in the clean room to test and verify the exact process that it will use on the surface of Mars. Credit copyright: NASA JPL

plumes from active volcanoes. Now, the second instrument that InSight will have is the heat flow and physical properties probe, also known as HP3. It’s a 18 inch probe that will dig about 16 feet into the Mars soil. The reason it’s digging this deep? Because at that depth it will be unaffected by the temperature changes on the martian surface! By the way, this digging will take weeks.. with frequent pauses to measure how effectively the surroundings conduct heat.

It will do this by using temperature sensors moving along with the probe during this dig and InSight will be able to gather the temperature readings and conductivity measurements and tell scientists just how much heat is emitting from the inside of Mars or how much heat as lacking and this will lead researchers to deriving ideas of what exactly the planet is made of and how its composition compares to Earth’s.

If we are going to colonize Mars one day we gotta know as much as we can before we get there !